Parents take their young children to school every day, but they might not know they can bring them along when their schools become polling places on Election Day.
Studies show that among the 6.2 million eligible voters in Los Angeles County, parents of young children is one of the demographics with low voter turnout, according to First 5 LA, a public early childhood advocacy organization. Researchers say parents of young children often forgo voting because of obstacles to finding childcare or the difficulty of managing a child’s behavior in long lines at polling places.
But what some California parents may not know is that state law allows them to bring their under-18 children to the polling place and into the voting booth.
First 5 LA is trying to raise awareness about voting accommodations that can benefit parents, such as voting by mail or surrendering their early ballot at the polling place to avoid long lines. The organization is also publicizing the free rides available from Metro and Lyft on Election Day as a resource for parents.
“It’s a wonderful example parents can provide for their children,” said First 5 LA representative Gabriel Sanchez. “When those children grow up, they will become voters themselves.”
The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District has encouraged parents to register through its PTA groups, a spokesperson said. Franklin, Roosevelt, and Grant elementary schools will all serve as polling places, as will most of the city’s parks and the Montana Branch Library.
“When parents start to understand how schools are funded in California, it sparks an interest in voting,” said former SMMUSD PTA council president Jennifer Smith.
Brittany Poulton, a mother of three-year-old and six-month-old daughters, brought her youngest daughter to her polling place in June for the primary election when she was just ten days old.
“You don’t have to feel like you’re causing a nuisance or being inconvenient (for bringing your kids) … you don’t have to arrange childcare to vote,” she said. “The people working the polls are always friendly and willing to give an “I Voted” sticker to kids.”
In the 2020 elections, however, the number of polling places in Los Angeles County will drop by 75 percent as the county makes changes in alignment with the 2016 California Voter’s Choice Act, which calls for many polling places to be replaced by voting centers.
Voters will be able to vote or drop off mail-in ballots at any County center for 11 days, which could make it easier for parents of young children to cast their ballots. Center workers will also help residents register to vote.
The County will hold community meetings and solicit feedback online to decide where to place voting centers.